FreedomPop launches free 4G service in beta

If you're willing to put down a refundable deposit for a modem, the startup will give you 500MB of free data per month.

Charlie Osborne Contributing Writer
Charlie Osborne is a cybersecurity journalist and photographer who writes for ZDNet and CNET from London. PGP Key: AF40821B.
Charlie Osborne
2 min read

A while back, startup FreedomPop declared ambitious plans to give every American the chance to get online for free. The company's beta subscription program is now live.

Via one of two modems -- a Photon mobile hotspot or a Bolt USB dongle -- customers can use up to 500MB of data per month without billing. That's not much, but it could be adequate for email and careful browsing.

The hardware is technically free, according to the company. However, to get your hands on the free data allocation, you need to put down a "fully refundable" deposit of $49 for the USB stick or $89 for the hotspot modem.

Users can up their free data allotment in two ways, one of which is to refer friends in return for an extra 10MB per month per sign-up -- a bonus that lasts as your friends remain active on the network. Alternatively, "special promotional offers" such as surveys or watching ads can also boost a monthly allowance up to a maximum rate of 5GB.

FreedomPop will charge users $10 for each gigabyte they go over their allowance.

The low data limit may not be attractive to many customers, but FreedomPop's COO Steven Sesar says that the firm plans to lift the restriction in the future. The referral system will eventually be joined by "value added services" on social networks, a VoIP service, and potentially a digital-currency scheme where unused megabytes can be given to friends.

In addition to the freemium service, data hogs can sign up for additional features --such as the "Speed Plus" service which grants access to the company's full mobile speeds on its WIMAX network for $3 a month. Two other prepaid plans are available at 2GB's worth of data for $18 a month, and 4GB for $29 a month. For now, you can expect download speeds between 4 and 10Mbps.

The beta service is open to everyone in the U.S., but as the company can't offer nationwide yet, there is a limit on the amount of customers it will currently support. FreedomPop is limited to Clearwire's WiMAX coverage for now, but plans to move to the Sprint LTE network next year.

The wireless hotspot and USB are currently available to order on the company's website. The hotspot can connect up to eight devices, whereas the USB can be ran on PCs without additional software. For Apple device users, sleeve modems for the iPod Touch and iPhone 4/4S can be pre-ordered and are due for launch in the coming weeks. Each sleeve is $99 and gives your device wireless capabilities over the restrictions of local Wi-Fi.